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Trayvon Martin: Shatters Myths That Blind Us to Reality

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If Trayvon Martin were not a young Black male, he would be alive today. Despite the verdict, it’s clear that George Zimmerman would never have confronted a young white man wearing a hoodie.He would, at the very least, have listened to the cops and stayed back. Trayvon Martin is dead because Zimmerman believed that “these guys always get away” and chose not to wait for the police.

Trayvon Martin’s death shatters the convenient myths that blind us to reality. That reality, as the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board wrote, is that “Black men carry a special burden from the day they are born.”

Both the prosecutor and the defense claimed that the trial was not about race. But Trayvon Martin was assumed to be threatening just for walking while being young, Black and male.

That is the reality that can no longer be ignored. Through the years, gruesome horrors — the murder of Emmitt Till, the shooting of Medgar Evers in his front yard — have galvanized African Americans and public action on civil rights. Trayvon Martin’s death should do the same.

What it dramatizes is what Michelle Alexander calls “the New Jim Crow.” Segregation is illegal; scurrilous racism unacceptable. But mass incarceration and a racially biased criminal justice system have served many of the same functions.

Since 1970, we’ve witnessed a 600 percent increase in the number of people behind bars, overwhelmingly due to the war on drugs. Those imprisoned are disproportionately African Americans. The U.S. now imprisons a greater percentage of its Black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid.

Drug usage is not dramatically greater in the Black community. But young Black males are racially profiled, more likely to be stopped and frisked (something New York Mayor Bloomberg defends), more likely to be arrested if stopped, more likely to be charged if arrested, more likely to be jailed if charged. In schools, zero tolerance — once again enforced disproportionately against people of color — results in expulsions, creating a virtual pipeline to prison.

The results are devastating. Young fathers are jailed. Children grow up in broken homes, in severe poverty, since those convicted never really leave prison. They face discrimination in employment, in housing, in the right to vote, in educational opportunities, in food stamps and public support.

As Alexander argues, the U.S. hasn’t ended the racial caste system, it has redesigned it.

As Trayvon Martin’s death shows us, the norm increasingly is to police and punish poor young men of color, not educate or empower them. And that norm makes it dangerous to be young, Black and male in America.

There are three possible reactions to this reality. African Americans can adjust to it, teaching their children how to survive against the odds. We can resent it, seething in suppressed fury until we can’t stand it anymore. Or we can resist, assert our rights to equal protection under the laws, and challenge openly the new reality.

We need a national investigation of the racial context that led to Trayvon Martin’s slaying. Congress must act. And it’s time to call on the United Nations Human Rights Commission for an in-depth investigation of whether the U.S. is upholding its obligations under international human rights laws and treaties.

Trayvon Martin’s death demands much more than a jury’s verdict on George Zimmerman. It calls for us to hear the evidence and render a verdict on the racial reality that never had its day in court at the trial.

 

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Alton Thomas Stiles

Booster Shot Required to Battle Omicron Variant Effectively, Gov. Newsom Says

“After our kids have enjoyed the holiday with family and friends … we want to make sure they come back in as good a shape as they left meaning we want to make sure that we are testing our kids and preparing them to come back to in-person instruction,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom.

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@CaliforniaBlac2 @tommyofasgard @BlackPressUSA @NNPA_BlackPress @GavinNewsom @CaliforniaDep11
Omicron’s swift spread alarms experts who are encouraging Californians to get vaccine booster shots.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

Last week, speaking at a press conference at the Native American Health Center in Oakland, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that Californians will have to take booster shots as the state adopts new COVID-19 measures to fight the Omicron variant.

He specified that California healthcare workers will be required to get booster shots by Feb. 1, 2022.

“There is nothing more important when we’re experiencing a surge in growth of case rates than protecting our frontline heroes and employees, and that’s why we led as the first state in the nation to require all healthcare workers to be vaccinated,” Newsom said.

He pointed out, “that led to extraordinarily high vaccination rates for our healthcare workers, kept staff working, kept the morale strong and kept their immunity strong. But we recognize now that just being vaccinated, fully vaccinated, is not enough with this new variant. We believe it is important to extend this requirement to getting that third dose.”

Newsom also announced that the state will be ordering 6 million free home tests for children in school.

The governor said the state is also ratcheting up its efforts to keep kids safe and schools open.

“We will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities by making at-home testing kits available to every K-12 public school student as they head back to the classroom from winter break,” Newsom continued.

At the press conference, Newsom made clear his intention to continue in-person schooling.

“After our kids have enjoyed the holiday with family and friends … we want to make sure they come back in as good a shape as they left meaning we want to make sure that we are testing our kids and preparing them to come back to in-person instruction,” Newsom said.

In addition, the governor announced that the state will be extending hours of operations for testing sites.

He said California has over 6,000 testing sites, about 30% of all the nation’s testing sites.

“California continues to lead,” Newsom said. “As of today, we have the lowest positivity rate in America.”

As of Sunday, December 26, California had a 5.4% test positivity rate for the last eight days. That number is up about 2.4% from the last week, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

“We continue to lead the nation in terms of administered doses of the vaccine and we continue to do more than most other states in promoting not only the safety and efficacy of our vaccines but promoting boosters,” he continued.

The CDPH reports that 78.9 % of all Californians have been vaccinated.

California Black Media’s coverage of COVID-19 is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.

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Advice

Despite Recent Storms, Expect Warmer, Drier Winter Weather

The last water year, which stretched from Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021, was among the driest ever recorded in California, according to the state’s Department of Water Resources. A year ago, just 12% of California was mired in extreme drought and 15% was drought free, according to data from the federal drought monitor. But as of Oct. 19, about 87% was experiencing at least extreme drought, with over 45% of the state in the most severe “exceptional” category. And no part of the Golden State is without drought.

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The winter storms across the state won’t have as much effect on long-term drought as once hoped, experts say.
The winter storms across the state won’t have as much effect on long-term drought as once hoped, experts say.

By Edward Henderson | California Black Media

In 1990, Tony! Toni! Toné!, the R&B trio from Oakland, released their hit song ‘It Never Rains in Southern California.’

For decades now, the words in the hook of that timeless R&B song have become a sort of a go-to jingle (or photo caption) for some proud Southern Californians. They use it to hype up their typically mild winter climate, playfully taunting East Coast or Midwestern family and friends — whether they are grilling outdoors for Thanksgiving or taking a selfie on a beach in the fall.

The “never rains” thing is an exaggeration for sure. On average, Southern California gets about 16 inches of rainfall each year. It is much less than the national annual average (about 38 inches), of course.

And if you were to look at the recent rain and snowstorms across the state over the last month, you would probably bet on wet, cold weather for the rest of winter.

But from now through March, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is warning that a warmer and drier winter is ahead, not just for Southern California but for the greater part of the state – from the Mexican border all the way up to just above the Bay Area.

That region includes the top 10 counties, by population, where Black Americans live.

Less rain will worsen the already-serious drought conditions in California, especially near the southern border where it has been driest. About 85% of the state was facing drought in June, reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to NOAA, La Nina, an oceanic atmospheric pattern, is the cause of the anticipated dry and warm winter conditions.

However, the sparsely populated stretch of California that reaches up to the Oregon border is expected to get wetter and colder weather winter weather.

“The Southwest will certainly remain a region of concern as we anticipate below-normal precipitation where drought conditions continue in most areas,” said Jon Gottschalk, chief Operational Prediction Branch at the NOAA.

The outlook does not project seasonal snowfall accumulations as snow forecasts are not predictable more than a week in advance.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center updates the three-month outlook each month. Their latest seasonal precipitation outlook for the first three months of 2022 predict that Southern California will see a 40-50% chance that precipitation will be below normal. The seasonal temperature outlook remains the same.

Seasonal outlooks help communities prepare for what is likely to come in the months ahead and minimize weather’s impacts on lives and livelihoods. Their goal is to empower people with actionable forecasts and winter weather tips to build a nation that is ‘weather-ready.’

“Using the most up-to-date observing technologies and computer models, our dedicated forecasters at the Climate Prediction Center produce timely and accurate seasonal outlooks to help communities prepare for the months ahead,” said Michael Farrar, Ph.D., director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction.

The last water year, which stretched from Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021, was among the driest ever recorded in California, according to the state’s Department of Water Resources. A year ago, just 12% of California was mired in extreme drought and 15% was drought free, according to data from the federal drought monitor. But as of Oct. 19, about 87% was experiencing at least extreme drought, with over 45% of the state in the most severe “exceptional” category. And no part of the Golden State is without drought.

The Center for Disease Control has outlined resources for communities preparing for potential droughts. Visit here for more information.

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Berkeley

Student Commencement Speaker: We Are ‘Capable of Anything’

We are part of a university that led the Free Speech Movement, a university that didn’t back down from a fight for justice, a university that, regardless of what the world said, marched forward for equality and justice. Those students before us did things that the world told them was impossible. That is who we are and what we represent.

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“We are part of a university that led the Free Speech Movement, a university that didn’t back down from a fight for justice, a university that, regardless of what the world said, marched forward for equality and justice,” student speaker Sahar Formoli told her fellow graduates. (UC Berkeley video)
“We are part of a university that led the Free Speech Movement, a university that didn’t back down from a fight for justice, a university that, regardless of what the world said, marched forward for equality and justice,” student speaker Sahar Formoli told her fellow graduates. (UC Berkeley video)

By Public Affairs

UC Berkeley graduate Sahar Formoli gave the student address at the 2021 winter commencement. Her prepared marks are below.

Hello and welcome friends, family, staff, faculty, alumni and the illustrious class of 2021. I am incredibly grateful to stand here with the rest of my class after the journey we have been through together — and what a journey it was. When I applied to universities, I thought of how difficult it would be to go to a new place with harder courses. But I looked to my parents, who came to this country with few prospects and little money and now own a business in Sacramento just a few doors down from the governor’s office. With their support, I mustered up the courage to apply to the best public university in the world, UC Berkeley.

When I got my acceptance letter, I didn’t immediately open it. I was ready for rejection. But after a few days, I thought I might as well delete one more email from my inbox — and there it was. Do you remember the virtual confetti falling across the screen — changing the trajectory of our lives? I never read the entire acceptance letter, only the part that said “Welcome.” And that is what I have felt throughout my entire time here — welcomed.

While the campus, faculty and my peers are the most kind and accepting people, that didn’t stop me from feeling like an imposter. I couldn’t accept the fact that I was wanted, that I deserved to be here. Sitting in classes next to those who seemed to know more than I ever did or could — and who were so far ahead of me — made it hard to feel like I belonged here. It wasn’t until I took a genetics course from a professor who was also from Sacramento that something changed. During office hours, she asked me what my goals were, and I said, “to graduate.” She waited for a moment, as if reading my existence, and said, “You know you are capable of anything.” I didn’t want to cry during office hours, but I pondered that for days. I can do… anything. She went on to give me the best advice I had ever received: “The only limitations that exist are the ones you allow to.” At that moment I remembered my parents, and how they did not allow their lack of language, limited understanding of U.S. culture and other perceived limitations to stop them from thriving.

At that moment I became acutely aware that I am here because I belong here. I wasn’t given this opportunity, I earned it — just as we all did.

With my newfound sense of belonging and encouragement from my advisor, I joined a film club of students who are just as obsessed with films as I am. One of my favorite films we watched was Lady Bird, about a girl from Sacramento, written and directed by Greta Gerwig, another girl from Sacramento. I related so much to the characters, emotions, and small references — and to the story about a girl who thought she would never go to the cultured colleges she longed for because of where she came from. She literally lives on the wrong side of the tracks that split Sacramento nearly in two, a symbol of the separation of wealth and privilege — a place where many people find their limitations lie.

But in the film, Lady Bird’s mother never let these tracks hold power over her.

This reminded me of my mother. Like Lady Bird, I had accepted rejection before it came to me, and my mother was my cheerleader who sent me to a school to find role models and mentors. Little did she know that she was the one I looked up to most, a woman who didn’t let limitations stand in her way and who never made me feel that there was something I couldn’t do.

At the end of the film, as Lady Bird is walking away from the screen, she asks her mother, “Did you feel emotional the first time that you drove in Sacramento? All those bends I’ve known my whole life, and stores, and the whole thing.” She saw that those obstacles were in her head and that life’s twists and turns made her who she is. We are an incredibly diverse class of students from every background. Our life experiences made us who we are and have proven time and time again that we can do anything.

We are part of a university that led the Free Speech Movement, a university that didn’t back down from a fight for justice, a university that, regardless of what the world said, marched forward for equality and justice. Those students before us did things that the world told them was impossible. That is who we are and what we represent.

Knowing the history of the people before me, both of those close to me and the historical figures that fought to create the school that I am in now against the odds, I went on to be a part of faculty research projects, I pursued a second major, I did multiple internships all because I recognized I — like Lady Bird, like my mother, like the students before me, and my peers that I stand side by side with today — am capable of anything.

Every one of us is capable of anything. We powered through the pandemic and persevered when it felt like the world was going to end. And now we stand beside our friends, family, and the faculty who helped us along the way. Like Lady Bird, coming out of our hometowns to follow our dreams in spite of the bumps in the road. To the class of 2021, you made it here. Now go on and show the world what Berkeley students are made of.

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